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YUKON AND ALASKA, GETTING LOST IN A DIFFERENT WAY
In 2017, for the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, Parks Canada offers a free admission card for its national parks, including the Kluane National Park in the southwest of the Yukon Territory. Be a pioneer in your own country and discover fabulous western Canada!
– By Philippe Bergeron, President of Uniktour
The Yukon Territory got its name from the river that zigzags through the region for more than 1,000 km before reaching Alaska, where it finally flows into the Bering Sea. A land of mountains and glaciers, this northern territory fascinates by its history but also by its majestic landscape. The taiga with its boreal forest covers the majority of it, but to the north the tundra offers rough and rocky landscapes where the sun refuses to set in summer and rise in winter.
The Klondike and Dawson City
In 1898, at the beginning of the gold rush, the Yukon was founded to help the government manage the large population migration. Within a few years, the gold vein attracted more than 100,000 people to the Klondike. Prospectors arrived from all over North America and most of them were passing through Alaska. To reach the Yukon, they first had to face an extremely difficult passage, following the Chilkoot Trail, each loaded with a ton of food. Indeed, the Canadian government required prospectors to have enough material and provisions to survive for a year. Then they sailed from lake to lake until they reached the Yukon River and then on to Dawson City. With a population of more than 40,000 people it was the largest city in the northwest and the capital of the Yukon.
Being the central region of the Yukon, the Klondike is therefore inseparable from the gold rush and just mentioning its name evokes the history of the prospectors. From Whitehorse take the Klondike highway, which follows approximately the same route as the old Chilkoot Trail. Make a first stop at the Lake Laberge, whose impetuous temper inspired the poet Robert Service, go a little further through the small town of Carmacks, then through Pelly Crossing and finally arrive in Dawson City, the heart of the Klondike.
Be enchanted by the unique atmosphere that exists throughout the summer. This charming little village will take you back to the beginning of the century with its wooden buildings, its paddlewheel boat, its bars, the casino and the French cancan show. And if you have a strong stomach, try the Sourtoe cocktail, a local specialty that will leave you with an unforgettable memory!
If you want to enjoy nature, start out in Dawson City, then take the Dempster Highway to the stunning Tombstone Territorial Park. A veritable playground for hikers, this park is home to a subarctic tundra landscape with sensational fall colors!
Whitehorse and Kluane National Park
Bordered by British Columbia, the southern Yukon has many lakes and unusual sites such as Carcross, the smallest desert in the world. Imagine a square of sand measuring 2.6 km2 consisting of a series of dunes where conifers grow with snow covered mountains in the background….incredible!
The current capital of the Yukon and located in the southern part of the territory, Whitehorse is a northern town in the middle of wilderness, but still easy accessible, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Its downtown area is full of coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques, as well as cultural attractions such as the SS Klondike, an amazing paddle steamer that used to connect Whitehorse to Dawson City before the road was built. A little further away, the MacBride Museum of Yukon History will transport you back to the beginning of the century.
The true soul of the Yukon, the Kluane National Park is made up of mountains and glaciers as far as the eye can see. Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, helicopter, heli-skiing, dog sledding, almost anything is possible in this amazing Canadian park. Photographers will be as pleased as birdwatchers that will be able to observe more than 180 different bird species such as peregrine falcons and royal eagles. There is also a large population of grizzly bears, wolves and lynx.
My favorite adventure
During a thrilling trip in September 2016, I wanted to make a stopover to relax and rest. I found myself a little pearl of a cottage to spend three nights far away from everything. Located directly on a lake, my cottage was almost new; the decoration was cozy, modern and very tasteful. The view was breathtaking and I was able to marvel at the aurora borealis for two consecutive nights. During the day my hosts suggested some outdoor activities and everyone met up again for supper around a table full of delicious and exquisite food.
If you feel like being charmed yourself, here is the information: http://www.uniktour.com/fr/voyage-sur-mesure/voyage-canada/aurores-boreales-du-yukon/information.php
Once arrived on the Pacific coast, you might ask yourself: why not take advantage and visit Alaska? Excellent idea!
What is the best time to visit?
All four Alaskan seasons have very distinct peculiarities and everything is linked to the daylight. In winter you have the opportunity to observe the aurora borealis and to experience the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in early March. The entire region is passionate about this difficult epic of the Great North. To make the most of your stay and to have access to the majority of the sites, you should go during summer season, between June and September. The fall colors are especially beautiful in the Denali area, since the small bushes in this national park shine in an intense red that contrasts with the golden tones of the birch trees and the deep green of the pines. One will never get tired of this beautiful display by nature!
How to travel to Alaska?
The vast majority of visitors choose to arrive by cruise ship. Indeed, what could be better? It is an easy and effective solution to see a maximum of nature’s beauty in a minimum amount of time, all while enjoying the luxury and comfort of your swimming hotel. But don’t stop there! Take the time and enjoy a few days in the heart of the mountains and follow the trail that once attracted so many gold hunters!
If you travel by boat, the Seward Peninsula and the town of Whittier will be your gateway to Alaska. You will find yourself in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula, a magnificent region full of fjords and glaciers. Take the train to Anchorage and enjoy a historic and scenic ride on a railway track that runs through remote forests and along the Turnagain Arm to the Cook Inlet. You can extend your experience to Fairbanks, but it might be a good decision to rent a car in downtown Anchorage. Enjoy your freedom of roaming around freely and take advantage of the numerous lookout points along the road to admire the most beautiful views.
Why do visitors travel to this region?
It is most certainly the wild side of Alaska that attracts visitors, but also the stories of the gold rush, the flora, the grizzly bears, moose, eagles and Dall sheep. Seward, Homer, Anchorage, Palmer, Talkeetna, Denali, Fairbanks and even further north, these are all excellent departure points for outdoor activities. Choose from a wide range of excursions: hiking, glacier trekking, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, all-terrain vehicles or jeep, helicopter rides or an airplane flight to the mountains and glaciers, the choice is vast! All of the above requires, however, being in good health, so my advice to you is: don’t wait until your 90 years old to get started!
My favorite adventure
My favorite adventure was visiting the Matanuska Glacier, a two-hour drive from Anchorage. For a few dollars, you can join a small guided group for a 90-minute leisure walk on the white giant’s bluish ice. After the effort, you should reward yourself by eating a good meal at the nearby Sheep Mountain Lodge (which is also a great place to spend the night). The setting is particularly impressive, as is the road that leads to the lodge. Whether you’re making a detour to get there, or this stopover has already been planned on your Alaskan itinerary to the Yukon, you will not regret visiting this region.
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